I, even I, will blot out your transgressions for my sake, and I will remember your sins no more.
Chag Simchat Torah!
Simchat Torah is a time of celebration in the Jewish community. This year it began last evening, Monday, October 17, at sundown and will end tonight at sundown. The Fall Feasts of Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah), Atonement (Yom Kippur) and Tabernacles (Sukkot) have now been completed. Many Jewish people have been praying, repenting, and turning to God in formal and personal prayers, asking for forgiveness and hoping that their fate would be sealed with yet one more year of good health and prosperity.
So now comes Simchat Torah which means Joy of the Torah. It is a time which marks the completion of the synagogue reading of the 5 books of Moses within a one-year span. Each week a particular parashat or portion of the Torah is read. And on the last Saturday when the annual cycle is completed, the final chapter of Deuteronomy is read.
The Last Parashat of the Torah Cycle
Moses before dying, gives the blessing to the twelve Tribes of Israel, describing their identities and missions in the plan of God. Then the Lord shows Moses the Promised Land which his descendants would soon possess. Moses, however, would himself not be allowed to enter in. Even for that prophet like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, even for the one with whom no one could compare because of all the signs and wonders God did through him, even he, Moses, could no enter in.
From Deuteronomy 32:51-52 we read why: Because you broke faith with Me in the midst of the people of Israel at the waters of Meribah-kadesh, in the wilderness of Zin, and because you did not treat Me as holy in the midst of the people of Israel. 52 For you shall see the land before you, but you shall not go there, into the land that I am giving to the people of Israel.” Sin has a very high cost, but God has a remedy for it.
Reading through the five Books of Moses allows us to get a deep understanding of God’s requirement when it comes to sinning. It began in Genesis chapter 3 when Moses penned the words, describing the sin of Adam and Eve. When they knew they had sinned, they attempted to cover it up by hiding, by blaming one another and by sewing figs leaves to cover their “nakedness”.
However, we quickly learned that this did not appease the Lord. The lesson taught us from the very start displayed God’s mercy as He lovingly called both Adam and Eve out from the bushes, and instead of carrying through with the death sentence which they rightly deserved, He covered them with animal skins, and gave them new hope.
These animals skins represented the first death recorded in the bible’s history of humanity setting the record straight and drawing us right to Leviticus 17:11 which confirms that atonement for our sins is found in the blood. Once we understand that, then we can make sense of all those animal sacrifices found in the Mosaic Law. However, what the 5 Books of Moses also teaches us is that God did not only require the blood of bulls and goats to cover sin, but righteousness was acquired once a person expressed their true faith in the God of Israel.
Moses wrote about Abraham, the man whose faith was tested beyond anything one could ever imagine; the sacrifice, the offering up of the life of his son Isaac, the one Abraham loved so much, the one in whom the promises of seed and land were clearly attached. Yet Abraham was ready to offer and honor God with whatever was asked of him. Why? Simply put, yet so difficult for many to grasp, its all about faith in the revelation of God.
What the 5 Books of Moses have taught us, from the Genesis record with Adam and Eve and their failure, to the groaning, complaining and rebellions of the children of Israel, is that it would be impossible for any man to keep the Laws of Moses (613 of them!) without breaking any. Break one law and you are guilty of breaking the entire set of laws. Look at Nadab and Abihu, two sons of Aaron who offered strange fire. One law was broken, and they died for that one transgression. How then can anyone be right before God?
We cannot stop at the first 5 Books of Moses. Although the cycle starts again in the synagogue and we go back to Genesis, we also need to spring forward into the later books, into the prophets who continually show us the same pattern of rebellion in the heart of man and the same requirements that come from a merciful and compassionate God; sacrifice and faith. We read this beautiful passage from the prophet Micah (7:18) who wrote: What God is like you, who forgives iniquity, who forgets sins of the remnant of your heritage? He does not keep his anger forever, for he delights in mercy.
The Torah would be a sad and hopeless story of man if it were to end right there. Moses gave us so many clues as to the solution for this dilemma of sin. The concept of the Redeemer, the one who would release us from evil’s powerful grip would come through the woman’s seed, because according to Genesis 3:15 her seed would crush the head of the serpent, and thus the Redeemer of Israel was first brought to light for us.
Moses begs us to go past the 5 books as we draw on the hope of so many of the prophets who are sometimes not read in the synagogue, prophets who give us the message of unquestionable hope.
What is this Unquestionable Hope?
Despite our breaking of the Mosaic covenant, God in His grace through the prophet Jeremiah had this to offer His children: Jer. 31: 31 Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, a covenant they broke, though I was their master, says the LORD.
What a hope, but where is the mediator, or through whom is this New Covenant negotiated? We have Adam representing humanity with the Adamic covenant. We have Abraham, Moses and David, all mediating the covenants God established with Israel. But who may that mediator be, that agent be who would establish the New Covenant, and bring about a time when every man would know God in their heart? Who will do that?
Servant of the Lord
The Redeemer of man is the Servant of the Lord, the One who Isaiah the prophet expounds on so much for us, between chapters 42-53. He is the one who will bring forth justice to the nations (Isaiah 42:1), He is the One who will bring Israel back to the Lord (Isaiah 49:5). He is the one before whom kings of the earth will prostrate themselves (Isaiah 49:7). He is the one through whom this New Covenant will be established (Isaiah 49:8). He is the one who will bear our iniquities, carry our sins and by his righteousness, make us righteous (Isaiah 53:5, 11).
This Redeemer has come. He has come to take our sins first, He has come to make us righteous before God. But He will come again to establish peace on this earth. He will come so that each and every festival of Israel would find its true meaning; from Passover to Sukkot, from the Lamb who redeemed us by his blood to the establishment of the Messianic Kingdom.
What Israel was called to do, to be light unto the nations, her Messiah Yeshua, will fully accomplish. Yes, so much is written of him which can be found throughout the Hebrew Bible, in the Torah, in the Writings and in the Prophets. They speak of Him and His mission to bring the world into a perfect relationship with God. How could we have the Simchat Torah – the joy of the perfect Torah, if the perfect Law reveals in plain sight, our sinful state and our need for a Redeemer?
Here is a beautiful passage from the book of Hebrews in the Brit Chadasha (the New Testament) speaking of Messiah’s role and what He accomplished for us.
Hebrews 9: 11-28 But Messiah came as High Priest of the good things to come; he passed through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, which is not made with hands, that is, not of this creation; 12and he entered once for all into the most holy place, not with the blood of goats and calves, but with his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption. 13For if the blood of bulls and goats, and the ashes of a cow sprinkled on those who are defiled, sanctify and make clean the flesh, 14how much more will the blood of Christ, who by an eternal spirit offered himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works, that you may serve the living God!
15For this reason he is the mediator of a new covenant, (Jeremiah 31;31) so that, death having intervened for the redemption of the transgressions committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the eternal inheritance promised to them. 16For where there is a will, it is necessary that the death of the testator be established. 17 For a will is only valid in the case of death, since it has no force as long as the testator lives. 18That is why even the first covenant was inaugurated with blood. 19And Moses, when he had spoken all the commandments of the law before all the people, took the blood of the calves and of the goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled it on the book itself and on all the people, 20saying, “This is the blood of the covenant which God has commanded for you. 21And he sprinkled the blood on the tabernacle and on all the vessels of the service. 22And almost everything according to the law is cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.
23Therefore it was necessary, since the images of the things in heaven were to be purified in this way, that the heavenly things themselves should be purified by more excellent sacrifices than these. 24For Messiah did not enter into a sanctuary made with hands, in imitation of the true one, but he entered into heaven itself, that he might now appear for us before the face of God. 25And he did not enter there to offer himself many times, as the high priest enters the sanctuary every year with foreign blood; 26otherwise he would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world, but now, at the end of the ages, he has appeared once to put away sin by his sacrifice. 27And as it is appointed for men to die once, after which the judgment comes, 28so Messiah, who offered himself once to bear the sins of many, will appear without sin a second time to those who wait for him for their salvation.
And from the Hebrew Bible, from the prophet Joel we read:
And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the LORD shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the LORD hath said, and in the remnant whom the LORD shall call. Joel 2:32
Make the occasion, Simchat Torah a most joyous one and open up this invitation. It is an offer to all who are thirsty. From the prophet Isaiah, the 55th chapter: Come and drink the waters of everlasting life and see how good the Redeemer of Israel is!
55 “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.
2 Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare.
3 Give ear and come to me; listen, that you may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David.
4 See, I have made him a witness to the peoples, a ruler and commander of the peoples.
5 Surely you will summon nations you know not, and nations you do not know will come running to you, because of the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has endowed you with splendor.”
6 Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near.
7 Let the wicked forsake their ways, and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.
8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.
9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
10 As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
12 You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.
13 Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper, and instead of briers the myrtle will grow. This will be for the Lord’s renown, for an everlasting sign, that will endure forever.”